How to Deal with a Common Challenging Behavior in Alzheimer’s Disease

caregiver comforting challenging behavior in Alzheimer's senior

Knowing how to best respond to a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be difficult.

Alzheimer’s disease is a complicated condition that often brings with it overwhelming issues for family caregivers. As the disease continues into later stages, those with Alzheimer’s increasingly communicate through actions as opposed to speech, and quite often these types of behaviors can be inappropriate. For example, a senior with more advanced Alzheimer’s disease might exhibit the following:

  • Combativeness and agitation
  • Unacceptable sex-related behavior such as:
    • Undressing or touching himself/herself in public
    • Utilizing crude or obscene language
    • Jealous claims that a spouse is having an affair
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression

These common challenging behaviors in Alzheimer’s can be embarrassing or troubling for caregivers, but can also be quite confusing and difficult for the person with dementia, as he or she most likely does not understand why the behavior is regarded as inappropriate or why it is upsetting to others.

As an Alzheimer’s caregiver, it’s crucial to keep in mind that any challenging behaviors the senior displays are the result of the disease — or possibly other health concerns or medications — not a representation of the person’s character. Also, often what seems to be sexually inappropriate behavior is really an expression of a non-sexual need, such as a need to use the bathroom or a need for closeness.

If you cannot understand a reason for the senior’s behavior, try these tips:

  • Redirect the older person to a favorite hobby or activity like listening to music or looking through pictures in a photo album.
  • Calmly, but promptly, locate a private area like a restroom or changing area if the senior begins to get undressed in public.
  • React to feelings of loneliness or a need for closeness with a nurturing pat or a hug and comforting conversation.
  • Try increasing the amount of exercise or physical activity the senior is engaging in.
  • Think through functional solutions; for inappropriate undressing, purchase special clothing designed with fasteners in the back for this specific reason, or try putting trousers or dresses on backwards.

When addressing concerning behavior:

  • Respond calmly and matter-of-factly. Quarreling with or embarrassing the person can aggravate the situation; try to be gentle and patient.
  • Never overreact. Offering too much affection may prompt unwanted sexual behavior, while yelling or shaming may frighten or confuse the person further.
  • Discover a solution, whether it is a new environment that does not allow for the behavior to be a cause of concern, or a new activity that distracts from the behavior altogether.

For more assistance with managing the challenging aspects of Alzheimer’s disease for someone you love, contact Advanced Home Health Care. Our caregivers are extensively trained and experienced in creative, effective dementia care practices, and we’re here to help whenever you need us for in-home care in Burlington and throughout the surrounding communities.

The Care You Need. The Quality You Deserve.